Noodle Auntie

There’s a stall I always go to at my local Hawker centre, and that’s this small, unnoticeable noodle stall. The stall is run by a middle aged auntie, who has light brown curly hair and always wears a dingy red and white striped apron.

I’m not particularly a noodle person, but I’m not the type who likes to eat home-cooked meals all the time either. So, I like to switch things up from time to time. My family and I don’t eat out often, but every time we do, we almost always visit the same hawker centre. Humans are creatures of habit (or is it just me?), that’s why I also tend to order from the same stall every time. Besides, it saves me the trouble of having to think of what to eat all the time. (And this is no easy feat since I live in Malaysia, where there’s good food just about everywhere!)

Her noodles weren’t spectacular. It was the usual ingredients — a handful of yellow noodles immersed in savoury kicap gravy, with two or three pork balls, which always came with a bowl of warm, savoury soup. Heck, the stall next to hers could even whip up a mean bowl of beef noodle soup for the same price. But what made me kept coming back was not how good the food tasted, it was about the amount of effort she put into each bowl.

You see, she was a normal hawker until one day — we went to the hawker center as usual for dinner, but I was petrified when I saw her in her stall. Her posture was stiffer than usual. Both her arms were side by side the waist, making her arms appear unusually stiff. It was as if her arms were frozen in place. An unnatural smile was etched on her face, it reminded me of the victims of Saw — as if she was forced to play along with his sinister games while trying incredibly hard to still remain optimistic in that kind of dire situation.

Her noodles also took longer than most stalls to make. Once they’re done, she brings them to us herself. I still remember her dragging her feet and trying very hard not to let both bowls topple over with her weak arms. When she had reached my table, I could see beads of sweat that had formed on her forehead. She was working extra hard for her money now in her condition. How can anyone not admire such tremendous effort, such grit, such sheer determination?

Stroke occurs when the circulation of blood is cut off from the brain to the organs in the body.It’s essentially like a “brain attack”. It is deadly if not treated early. You can read more about stroke here.

The after effects of stroke varies from person to person, but they’re still similar, in terms of stiffness in the arms or legs, slurred speech and difficulty in executing daily tasks.

I felt sympathetic towards her condition. She was trying very hard to earn a living for herself and there comes a devastating stroke to hinder her further from doing just that. On one hand, I should help her by ordering from her stall and giving her business — which also means that I’m not looking down in her ability to work albeit her suffering from the after effects of a stroke — but on the other hand, I don’t want her to overwork herself. I could not do anything to improve her health, so buying food from her stall was the least I could do.

Thankfully, she has a helper in the stall now. So her workload is halved. But I pray to God for her speedy recovery. A modern day Florence Nightingale in the food industry, she deserves a medal too.

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